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Pat-a-Cake or Patty Cake?

Rebecca Bowen Rebecca Bowen
1st September 2021
Pat-a-Cake or Patty Cake?
Both names are used in different places around the world (Getty Images).

The Claim

Pat-a-Cake is the correct title of the children’s clapping song, but black people changed it to “Patty Cake.”

Emerging story

This month, social media users have been posting a simple image of text which reads, “Nursery Rhyme: Pat a cake / Black People: Pattycake.” Users responded with their opinion on the correct name, including “My childhood was a lie.” and, “WHO ever said Pat a cake?” Comments ranged from disbelief about the spelling to many users saying that white people also say, “Patty Cake.”

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Misbar’s Analysis

The original song was titled, “Pat-a-Cake,” and is attributed to Mother Goose. But due to the evolution of language, both titles are correct. As Macmillan Dictionary staff writer Stan Carey notes, “innovation in language, just as anywhere else, is a sign of health,” and the English language continuously changes. The song is taught to children all around the world — the names are used interchangeably.

A Gullah language teacher from Harvard University, Sunn m’Cheaux took to Tik Tok to debunk the claim that black people had mispronounced the song. He explained that “pat-a” became “patty” due to correct pronunciation differences in languages. Much like the age-old question of how to say “pecan,” the correct way is denoted by the speaker’s accent or dialect. 

Mother Goose’s full identity is not known, but legends abound. Creating some of the most well-loved nursery rhymes, Mother Goose is also credited with writing “Jack be nimble,” “Ring around the rosy,” and “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.” The Patty Cake rhyme also showed up in another form in a work around the same time, in 1698: Thomas d’Urfey’s The Campaigners. The rhyme differs in the lines that come after “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, Baker’s man.”

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Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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